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Franken gets a big win with net neutrality decision

Plus: lawmakers look at tweaking Minnesota elections; an Elk River man is pardoned by the Mongolian president; Scott Walker compares taking on unions to fighting ISIS; and more.

Sen. Al Franken
Office of the Governor

Take a bow, Al. Brett Neely at MPR writes, “Sen. Al Franken is taking a moment to celebrate following the Federal Communications Commission’s vote to regulate broadband Internet service like a public utility, a cause he has championed for several years. … The net neutrality fight is also connected to another one of Franken’s pet issues: blocking the merger of Comcast and Time Warner, a move that would create an enormous broadband provider that also controls a slew of TV and cable networks.”

For Variety, Ted Johnson writes: “The FCC’s move has tremendous implications for the future of online video. One of the most vocal of all major companies in favor of net neutrality was Netflix, which urged the agency to impose strong rules and also to extend them to another part of the Internet ecosystem — the connection point where it delivers its streaming content to an ISP for delivery to the consumer. Netflix had complained that Comcast and Verizon last year forced it to make payments for ‘interconnection,’ refusing to upgrade their systems so that their signal wasn’t degraded when it arrived on a subscriber’s screen. … Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who has been among the most prominent lawmakers on Capitol Hill pushing for tough rules, suggested in a statement earlier this week that the FCC’s action is to keep the Internet as open as it is. ‘For decades now, we’ve seen the Internet be an engine for innovation and economic growth,’ he said. ‘And that hasn’t just happened while net neutrality was in place; it’s happened because of net neutrality.’” He can brag on this one.

Oh, they’ll be cross-checking the numbers. The Strib’s Ricardo Lopez says, “Hours before the Republican House was to vote on a bill Thursday to revise layoff procedures teachers to include merit, a last-minute report by the administration of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton estimated the proposal would cost taxpayers $895,000 over the next two years and pushed the legislation back to a committee. … House Ways and Means Chairman Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, who had previously reviewed the bill, expressed skepticism about the cost estimate.”

We’re No. 50? Lorna Benson at MPR says, “Calling Minnesota’s payment rates for pediatric dental care the lowest in the nation, a coalition of dental groups Thursday urged lawmakers to raise rates to the average among states…. A recent study by the American Dental Association found the average Medicaid payment for pediatric dental care in the U.S. is about $49 for every $100 cost.”

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Also in medical news, and also from Benson: “Minnesota hospitals and surgical centers reported 308 medical errors last year that risked patient safety. Errors increased slightly over last year and are still rare, given the state’s 2.6 million patient days. But for patients on the receiving end of a mistake, the consequences can be severe. Last year 98 patients in Minnesota were seriously injured and another 13 patients died.”

There are some good ideas here: The Forum News Service’s Don Davis writes, “Minnesota’s elected officials are looking at election changes. On Thursday alone, lawmakers considered bills to change the primary election date, allowing 16-year-olds to preregister to vote and establishing a commission to redraw political district lines every 10 years. … The Legislature and governor are supposed to redraw lines for congressional and legislative districts after each census to maintain the one-person, one-vote concept. However, redistricting has ended up in Minnesota courts since 1960. Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, proposed establishing a commission to handle the task. He suggests a five-person panel of retired judges.” Or … let the judges certify computer-drawn boundaries.

A not-so slight exaggeration of his wealth. In a piece headlined, “This Billionaire Governor Taxed the Rich and Increased the Minimum Wage — Now, His State’s Economy Is One of the Best in the Country,” The Huffington Post’s, Carl Gibson writes, “Between 2011 and 2015, Gov. Dayton added 172,000 new jobs to Minnesota’s economy — that’s 165,800 more jobs in Dayton’s first term than Pawlenty added in both of his terms combined. Even though Minnesota’s top income tax rate is the 4th-highest in the country, it has the 5th-lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.6 percent. According to 2012-2013 U.S. census figures, Minnesotans had a median income that was $10,000 larger than the U.S. average, and their median income is still $8,000 more than the U.S. average today. By late 2013, Minnesota’s private sector job growth exceeded pre-recession levels, and the state’s economy was the 5th fastest-growing in the United States. Forbes even ranked Minnesota the 9th-best state for business (Scott Walker’s ‘Open For Business’ Wisconsin came in at a distant #32 on the same list).”

You don’t want to get sideways with the Mongolian version of the IRS. The AP story says, “Mongolia’s president on Thursday pardoned an American mining executive and two Filipinos sentenced to prison for tax evasion, in a case that raised questions about the Asian nation’s reputation as an investment destination. A statement from Elbegdorj Tsakhia’s office said Justin Kapla, Hillarion Cajucom Jr. and Cristobal David would have the rest of their sentences of five to six years commuted. Kapla is president and executive director of SouthGobi Sands LLC, a Mongolian mining company, while Cajucom and David were financial experts with the company. … Kapla’s father, a resident of Forest Lake, Minnesota, had lobbied the state’s senatorial delegation for assistance with the case. Justin Kapla is a graduate of Elk River High School.”

Our Second Amendment friends are opposed to the cops reading license plates because of … what? Says the AP, “A gun owners group in joining those opposed to the collection and retention of license plate reader data by police in Minnesota. Law enforcement agencies want to keep data from the automated readers for 90 days and say it will help them solve crimes. But some gun owners are concerned about infringement on their constitutional rights. Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance board chairman Joe Olson told the state Senate Transportation Committee Wednesday that he’s worried police could collect information about people when they park outside gun shows, or a political rally, or anywhere.” Like a day-care center? A grade school?

Big day on the police blotter out in the grand and glorious city of Montevideo, a.k.a. The Old Sod. Says Paul Walsh in the Strib, “A man left his sleeping 2-year-old son in a car with the engine running late on a cold night and spent about an hour drinking in a west-central Minnesota bar, where police found him extremely intoxicated, authorities said. Christopher R. Jasperson, 27, of Montevideo, was charged last week with gross-misdemeanor child endangerment … .  A bartender told police that Jasperson had been there for about an hour and drank three 22-ounce beers. Jasperson initially told police he was in the bar for about 15 minutes and drank half a beer. But when pressed, Jasperson acknowledged drinking much more beer at the bar as well as a six-pack of beer before driving that night.” Uh, let’s … carry the one … 138 ounces of … beer.

Then, also via Walsh: “A 21-year-old man anguished for more than a year until he could no longer keep secret that he strangled a 65-year-old man while the two were having sex in a west-central Minnesota apartment, according to a manslaughter charge based in part of the defendant’s confession. … Officers looked over the apartment and noted bloodstains on the bed’s pillows and numerous sex toys in the room. More than a year later, an officer spoke to [Harley W.] Hatch at the Yellow Medicine County jail, where he was being held in connection with other crimes he ‘was either involved in or had knowledge of,’ the complaint read.” Back in the day it was just the drunks tying each other up in running cars.

Meanwhile at the big conservative conference, where a candidate can never be conservative enough, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post writes, “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said something he shouldn’t have on Thursday night during his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference.  Talking about the threat posed to the United States — and the broader global community — by the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State, Walker volunteered: ‘If I can take on 100,000 protesters. I can do the same across the world.’ … The mistake Walker made is the same one that politicians make when they compare something happening in, say, a domestic policy fight to what happened in Nazi Germany. As soon as you are comparing something that doesn’t involve mass deaths and unspeakable atrocities to something that does, you’ve lost the argument.” Just not in front of the CPAC crowd.